As 2018 draws to a close, many L&D leaders are beginning to explore the top learning and development trends of 2019. As you weigh needs and resources, we wanted to give you some early insights to support your planning. The topics in our list of 2019 L&D trends are based on our experience working with a diverse group of clients and our steady research.

Learning and development is transforming at a quicker clip in recent years as a crop of new technologies like virtual and augmented reality, automation, and artificial intelligence disrupt our expectations for engaging, action-oriented learning.

Below are the five top trends in training and development we believe you need to watch and discuss with your teams as you plan for 2019.

Trend #1: Making Learning More Accessible

As our roles become more complex and the way we work more dynamic, L&D needs to provide access to training “anytime, anywhere, on any device.” Waiting in line? Pull up a simulation on your phone and review. In a lull between meetings? Jump on your computer and work through an interactive learning guide.

Creating this level of accessibility has its challenges, but it’s worth it. That’s why it tops our list of L&D trends to watch in 2019.

A recent Gartner study found, “The effortless learning experience has the greatest impact on learning application and digital learners value it the most.” Learners cited “Ease of career application, ease of access, and ease of consumability” as the three most important factors with training.

2019 L&D trends - making learning accessible

Micro-learning and accessible learning go hand in hand. The process of repackaging training for agility also sets you up for quicker, more efficient development of training. When a role responsibility changes, your trainers won’t have to update an entire course or video if the material is broken into smaller pieces. They’ll find the segment that needs to be updated instead of recreating the entire piece. Your L&D teams will be quicker to tweak courses with more granular access to the content. If learners are struggling with a concept, they might reorder the course or repackage that segment to increase effectiveness.

Making training into smaller bites isn’t enough to meet your learnings in any situation. If your courses are available on a phone, but are impossible to work through on that device, the learner will walk away. Designing training that considers the advantages and challenges of each device is key to making learning easier to digest.

There’s an added benefit to structuring your training this way. Your material becomes a rich resource for your managers to extend formal training and reteach concepts when team members are struggling. Organizing these resources in a system that tracks usage will help your L&D team prioritize training development, and this data is an important point of reference when discussing ROI for training offerings.

Trend #2: Exploring Immersive Technology

Much of the current excitement around augmented reality and virtual reality is centered around gaming, but these technologies will have a larger, lasting impact on the L&D. A 2018 Capterra survey on top tech trends found as many as 46% of U.S. small and medium-sized businesses are looking into leveraging VR in the next two years.

Virtual and augmented reality are becoming more accessible each year. These emerging technologies have the greatest potential to help manage change in an organization. AR/VR replaces traditional courses and assessments with a single solution where the mastery required is taught and practiced in a simulated environment.

2019 training trends - immersive technology

Imagine sales training where a new hire learns your company’s sales process (knowledge acquisition) then immediately enters a scenario to practice and refine learning through a pair of glasses or VR goggles (skill building). Each stage of your process would have this balance of learning then showing what you’ve learned. i.e. This is how you pitch to the decision-maker.  You try it. This is how you get the SOW through legal. Now you do it.

Virtual simulations like these provide rich, emotionally connected experiences that feel real. No one loses a real client in virtual reality, but a well-designed virtual scenario will evoke the same emotions associated with a loss in the learner. In other words, it will feel real.

The process can be slowed or broken down so each step of a call can be evaluated and practiced. Variations on the core simulations help learners extend their learning into new products and markets.

2019 is the year to start giving these new technologies some of your time and resources. You might not be ready to jump in with both feet, but investing in a VR system and testing out some of the early L&D resources would be a measured first step. If this is too much of an investment now, read up on the companies that are early adopters. Learn from their experiences now so you are ready when the price allows your company to jump in.

Trend #3: Designing Training for Sustainment and Retention

Whether custom-designed or off-the-shelf, the impact of your training will be minimal if your organization doesn’t have a plan for application and reflection in the field after the training is complete. All instruction, especially skills-based training, requires validation and reinforcement.

2019 l&d trends - sustainment training

Effective training is not a “one and done” event. Smart companies recognize the real change happens when the team walks into the field with their new learning in hand and starts putting it into practice. These companies design training with the longer view of change in mind.

The goal of refresher training is to sustain learning, increase knowledge retention, and fight the forgetting curve. People forget 50% of what the learn in 1 hour. 70% within 24 hours. And 90% within a week.

Learners need more than simple reminders. Reminders are not reinforcement. Reinforcement should be positioned as a part of your learner’s overall experience. Managers, too, should be equipped to coach their teams to success. Review your training and provide your leaders with the tools they need to support their teams as they put training into practice.

Trend #4: Embracing Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence and machine learning stand to make two significant impacts on how we learn in the coming year – personalization and measuring effectiveness.

This rapidly growing technology will continue to change how we consume training. IBM recently noted by applying AI to a workplace, “employees can receive more personalized recommendations to facilitate evergreen, curated learning paths and anticipatory career management.” Applying AI to an LMS will create a learning environment highly tailored to the individual employee.

2019 training and development trends - artificial intelligence

We see the consumer application of this all the time. Netflix, Amazon, and Facebook are using AI/machine learning to deliver personalized recommendations each time you visit. This same smart curation applied to your learning environment will create more engaging, timely experiences for your employees.

AI’s more significant impact will be around measuring effectiveness. It’s a vexing issue for any company. You create a well-designed, sound learning experience for a team, the trainers deliver as well as you expected, and you’re left feeling good about the L&D team’s performance.

Oh, you’re also left with the little voice asking, “But how effective was it?”

AI already has the tools to answer that question. For example, face-recognition technology we see in our phones could be leveraged in training, role-playing, simulations, and in the field to assess how each learner is applying new learning. Based on that assessment, the learner could be directed back into the LMS where custom follow-up training is waiting for them.

We know. It sounds like science fiction. But it’s here. You stand to lose real money and market share if your training isn’t agile.  AI is a cost-effective way to manage that flexibility. It will give your L&D teams more time improve the quality of training. Make it a tentpole of your 2019 strategy.

Trend #5: Accepting Automation

“The Bots are coming!  The Bots are coming!” – Paul Revere on Facebook Messenger

Much of the focus of bots in the news has been on how a coming “Bot-pocolypse” will result in major job losses. This alarmist perspective mischaracterizes how bots are impacting work. They’re being used most often in places where we look for answers and to augment services, but they are not coming for our jobs.

L&D trends 2019 - automation and machine learning

The rise of customer support chatbots and chatbot integrations in communication apps creates two unique L&D opportunities.

  1. The bots themselves become vehicles to quickly place training in front of employees.  Remember, “anytime, anywhere, any device?”
  2. Using a chatbot system to distribute your training literally puts the learning at their fingertips—or thumbs.

As these bots help employees and customers and take over repetitive, process-oriented tasks that provide little meaning to us humans, they will make our work more engaging. The Training Journal points out, “Increasingly, businesses will look to automation to handle technical and process-driven tasks, and they’ll look to their people to spend more time on value-add tasks, which require creative and objective thought.”

Companies embracing automation need to work closely with L&D to teach employees how to work alongside these new tools. As work becomes more creative and objective, the role of L&D will shift along with our teams in response to automation. L&D must ensure workplace training is designed and delivered for more complex work. What an amazing opportunity for Instructional Designers and Trainers.

Your 2019 plan needs to include transitioning process-oriented training into chatbot systems while designing training for those “value-add tasks.”

2019 L&D Trends Recap

Technology is delivering more personal experiences every year. The new trends in training and development all bend towards that individual learner experience. Let’s recap.

  1. Make training easily accessible. Make sure your training is at the fingertips of your employees whenever they want it.
  2. Explore immersive technologies. Augmented and virtual reality create “real and safe” ways to help teach valuable, human-driven skills.
  3. Design for sustainment. As you plan your training strategy, include time for reinforcement, reflection, and application in the field to make your training stick.
  4. Embrace artificial intelligence and machine learning. You’re going to need help managing this truly employee-focused learning experience.
  5. Accept automation. If process-oriented tasks are going to machines, focus your training on the complex stuff only humans can do.

It can feel exciting and a bit overwhelming all at the same time.

Need help navigating these new L&D trends? Let us help. Schedule a free training consultation with one of our experts to learn how.